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Abnormalities in the flow-volume loop in obstructive sleep apnoea sitting and supine.
  1. E T Shore,
  2. R P Millman

    Abstract

    We evaluated the effect of posture on the sensitivity and specificity of abnormalities in the flow-volume loop in 30 patients with suspected obstructive sleep apnoea. Flow-volume loops were judged as abnormal if the FEF50/FIF50 ratio was greater than 1 or if the sawtooth sign was judged to be present by at least two of three chest physicians. Detailed nocturnal recordings confirmed the presence of obstructive sleep apnoea in 17 of the 30 patients. Our results showed that both the sensitivity and the specificity of each of the flow-volume criteria for the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea were higher when the loops were recorded in the supine than when they were recorded in the sitting position. The sensitivities were low, however, even with the supine posture--sawtoothing 41% and FEF50/FIF50 ratio greater than 1 47%. The highest sensitivity (71%) was obtained by considering a positive result as being the presence of either of the abnormalities in either the sitting or the supine posture. This sensitivity of the flow-volume loop was too low to recommend it as a routine screening test for the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea but the presence of the sawtooth sign had a high specificity (92%) for the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea. Furthermore, there was a greater fall in oxygen saturation in patients with apnoea who had sawtoothing than in those without sawtoothing. The presence of the sawtooth sign should increase the suspicion of sleep apnoea and suggest the need for further investigation. The effect of posture on the occurrence of abnormalities in the flow-volume loop suggests that position alters the configuration of the upper airway.

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